While sniffing around the Internet, I found that folks sell USB RC radios - you can't use them for real but they function as a joystick, albeit in the shape of an RC transmitter. And not only that but there are heaps of RC flight simulators on the market, ranging from free up to many hundreds of dollars!
I did my research and discovered that there are two schools of thought for your radio controller: Mode-1, and Mode-2. Mode-2 is where your elevators and ailerons are on the right-hand stick and your throttle is on the left, along with your rudders. Just like a real plane, oddly enough. I've also been flying flight sims on my PC for years, whether they be just a simulator, or a combat simulator like Falcon 4.0, and used the right-hand stick, left-hand throttle and rudders layout with my funky Thrustmaster joysticks. So naturally Mode-2 suited me just fine and all the folks in the USA use this, but there is a snag when you're an Aussie.
In Australia, the majority of folks fly "Mode-1". Mode-1 is where your throttle and ailerons are on the right-stick, and your elevators and rudder are on the left. And worse, it's a religious debate on what Mode is the best. Lots of people were telling me to fly Mode-1, because nobody would teach me how to fly using Mode-2. And did I already mention how I HATE RULES THAT EXIST FOR STUPID REASONS?
The arguments about why Mode-1 is so freaking awesome just pushed all my buttons. Reasons like "because you might accidentally get aileron input when you use the elevators" are rubbish. You like Mode-1, great - but please don't push your opinion onto people who like it different. People who look down on you for using Mode-2 can take their attitude and get lost!
So yeah, "feck the status quo" was my motto and I stuck with my plan to fly Mode-2 (and I haven't looked back either).
I was excited, but also feeling justified by buying the simulator kit; if I found that I couldn't fly worth a damn, I would only have wasted about seventy bucks ($30 for the USB "transmitter" and another $35 for the flight simulator). The simulator software is brilliant, because it simulates you standing on the ground in one spot and looking up at your plane flying around you, just like in real life.
Unfortunately for my bank account, it turned out I could fly quite well. Which only made me want a real plane even more!
For anyone who is interested, the USB "radio" I purchased was the E-Sky simulator kit which included the free "FMS" simulator, and the simulator software I later purchased is ClearView.